Code of Ethics adopted by the national associations of journalists, by creating the Togolese Media Observatory (OTM) on 5 November 1999.
The right to free expression, to information and to criticism is a fundamental right of every citizen. From the public’s right to know news and views are derived the rights and duties of journalists. The national associations of journalists, by creating the Togolese Media Observatory (OTM) on November 5, 1999, have signalled their commitment to a free and responsible press in Togo. The members of those associations are convinced that their duties towards the public prevail over any other responsibilities they have, especially towards their employers and the authorities. The mission entrusted to journalists can only be achieved by respecting the rules of the profession. Hence, Togolese journalists have on this day decided to draft a code of ethics and to get it respected by all media.
All journalists and media technicians endorse the present engagement and they pledge to observe it strictly in the practise of their profession.
The essential duties of a Togolese journalist as he/she seeks, collects, processes, prints and distributes information are:
Article 1 – Responsibility
A journalist assumes responsibility for everything he/she writes. He/she publishes only information whose source, truthfulness and accuracy have been established. The slightest doubt will force him/her to abstain or to express reservations according to the required professional forms. The processing of information likely to endanger society demands that a journalist show great professional rigour and some caution.
Article 2 – Freedom to inform
A journalist defends press freedom and freedom of speech, in accordance to the Togolese Constitution, as an inalienable right of the people.
Article 3 – Respect for truth
The right of the public to accurate news, whatever the consequences, is sacred. Slander, undocumented accusations, alteration of documents, distortion of facts, lies, are serious professional faults for journalists.
Article 4 – Respect of privacy
A journalist respects the right of individuals to privacy and dignity. The publication of information relative to the private life of anyone can only be justified by the public interest. He/she will abstain from slander, libel, insults and unfounded accusations.
Article 5 – The right to reply
Inaccurate or false information must be spontaneously corrected. Persons unfairly exposed are entitled to redress by way of the right of reply. This right of reply is guaranteed to persons and institutions. It can be used only in the organ which originally published the disputed information.
Article 6 – Professional dignity
In his/her professional activities, a journalist is expected to refuse money or any advantage in kind which could be considered as corruption.
Article 7 – No plagiarism
A journalist will refrain from plagiarism. He/she will always quote the sources of any text that he/she reproduces.
Article 8 – Professional secrecy
A journalist must respect professional secrecy. Whatever the threats he/she faces, he/she will not reveal the sources of information obtained.
Article 9 – Separation of news and views
A journalist is free to take a position on any issue. But he/she is under the obligation to separate comments from facts so as not to mislead the public.
Article 10 – Separation of news and advertising
Information and advertising must be kept separate. A journalist must not confuse his role with that of a propagandist or an advertiser. Hence, he/she must not accept any instruction, direct or indirect, from a propagandist or an advertiser.
Article 11 – No unfair methods
A journalist must not use unfair methods to obtain information, pictures or documents.
Article 12 – No inciting to racial, ethnic and religious hatred
A journalist must abstain from publishing any information likely to trigger tribal, racial or religious hatred. He must proscribe any form of discrimination and never eulogise crime.
Article 13 – Refusal of sensationalism
A journalist abstains from sensational headlines that do not correspond to the contents of the articles. He/she must avoid shocking titles and images.
Article 14 – The nature of information
A journalist is responsible for what he publishes, for the choice of photographs, of sound bites, pictures and comments. He/she will explicitly signal a report that could not be filmed live and so was reconstituted or even staged. He/she will point out whether pictures come from the archives, whether a report is truly live or not, whether material is news or advertising.
Article 15 – The protection of minors
A journalist respects and protects the rights of children and teen-agers by not publishing their names or pictures.
Article 16 – Professional solidarity
A journalist must seek and encourage solidarity. He/she will not use the columns of his/her newspaper or airtime to settle accounts with peers. A journalist does not apply for the job of a colleague, does not cause his dismissal by offering to do his/her work at lower cost.
Article 17 – Competence and excellence
Before dealing with a topic, a journalist must evaluate his capacities. He/she will deal with a topic only after gathering a minimum of documentation, after doing some research and investigation. A journalist must constantly seek excellence in his/her writings. Hence, he/she must constantly improve his/her talents and knowledge by attending training seminars for journalists.
Article 18 – Respect for the law
Every journalist must consider it as a obligation to observe, scrupulously, the rules listed above. Any violation of the present code of ethics will expose the journalist to sanctions. He/she must accept the jurisdiction of his/her peers and the decisions of self-regulatory bodies. Also he/she must know the laws that apply to the press.
Every journalist can, in the exercise of his profession, claim the following rights:
Article 19 – Free access to sources
A journalist is entitled to access all sources of information and to investigate freely on all issues pertaining to public life. No one can invoke “Reason of State” and the secrecy of public and private business to stop a journalist, or only exceptionally and for clearly formulated motives.
Article 20 – Refusal of subordination
A journalist is entitled to refuse to take any orders that would be contrary to the editorial policy of the media outlet which employs him/her.
Article 21 – The Clause of conscience
A journalist cannot be forced to do an act or express an opinion that would be contrary to his convictions or his conscience. In such a case, he will invoke the clause of conscience and the accompanying benefits.
Article 22 – Changes and alterations
The newsroom staff of a press organ must absolutely be informed of any important decision that is likely to affect durably the activities of the press firm.
Article 23 – Payment
Considering the sophisticated character of his/her role and responsibilities in society, a journalist in entitled, not only to the advantage of collective contracts, but also to a personal contract that will insure his material and moral security, as well as to a remuneration in conformity to his role and that will guarantee his economic independence.
Article 24 – Security
A journalist holding a press card is entitled everywhere to security for him/herself and his/her professional equipment, to legal protection and respect for his/her dignity.
Article 25 – Final provisions
The present provisions will serve as a code of professional ethics for the journalists and media technicians of Togo. The Togolese Media Observatory (OTM) is entrusted with the enforcement of it.